Is anyone here scared of Night Panel?

The reason I ask the question in the title to this post is that I’ve seen two articles in the last few days that refer to situations where the author was supposedly called to panic by the use of Night Panel (or Black Panel as it’s referred to in one article).

The first one is on TTAC, by demon driver, Jack Baruth:

This was also the era of the ridiculous “Born From Jets” advertising. To provide that advertising with the barest connection to reality, Saab equipped the 9-3 with the “Black Panel”. The Black Panel was an enormous button that, when pressed at night, cut the illumination to every gauge except the speedometer. The idea was that only critical information would be communicated to the pilot, I mean, driver. If one of the gauges reached a “critical area”, it would light up. Supposedly this was the way LearJets worked. The way it worked in practice:

  • Explain “Black Panel” to passenger;
  • Press Black Panel button;
  • Observe the non-impressed countenance of passenger;
  • Drive for a while in Black Panel;
  • Shriek like little girl when the fuel gauge falls below a quarter-tank and lights up out of nowhere in CRITICAL MODE;
  • Never press Black Panel button again.

And the second one comes from none other than Jeremy Clarkson himself, writing about the Saab 9-3 TTiD in the Sunday Times last weekend:

Oh, Saab is still banging on about the aircraft connection. It fits a button that turns off all the dashboard lights at night, so you can feel like a night fighter pilot. But you don’t really. You just feel as if you might be running out of petrol.

My thanks to Dave R for the transcript of that one.

Returning to the point, however…… Have any of you ever felt this worried with Night Panel on? Are people that unaware of their fuel situation before taking off on a trip where Night Panel might come into play?

I have to admit that it’s been quite a while since I’ve used Night Panel. I tend to use it mostly for longer trips only, and I don’t do many long trips at night any more (I’m usually too busy writing up this stuff). But when I have used it I’ve never been in a situation when I wasn’t aware of the conditions I was driving in (i.e. fuel, etc).

I could understand if you were at the 500km mark of a long trip in the middle of nowhere, but in that situation I’d be keeping an eye on my fuel all the time.

Is it just me, or did these two play up the fear factor for dramatic effect?

Henke
Guest
Henke
5 years 7 months ago

I use night panel all the time! And of course I know how much fuel I have and if I dont have a clue I just look at the onboard computer display to see how long I have left! I get angry when I hear about stupid remarks from JC just dont use if you dont like it but its good too have the option!! I havent heard of anyone running out of fuel because of the nightpanel!

Daniel B
Guest
Daniel B
5 years 7 months ago

+1.

Use it all the time and love it!

Lars S
Guest
Lars S
5 years 7 months ago

Me too, I would certainly miss it if it was gone. I have scared one or two passengers by using it, however – “what the hell happened, all the lights on the panel are gone!?”. But that’s just funny…

Mike C
Guest
Mike C
5 years 7 months ago

I have no problems with the night panel function because I know its function. I like it and find it helpful on long trips. It’s part of the Saab DNA. You have to love it, what’s to complain about?
Yes, these guys played the fear factor. It’s just another thing that makes Saab so special.

jan Eric Koch
Guest
jan Eric Koch
5 years 7 months ago

Agree for 100% Mike.

Meg Haviland
Guest
Meg Haviland
5 years 7 months ago

+ 1. They played up the fear factor on this one. The car if low on fuel on night panel will alert you to this situation. I love putting the car ito night panel mode especially with people who have never experianced it. It blows their minds 🙂

Tobias A
Guest
Tobias A
5 years 7 months ago

I just love the NightPanel! Especially when driving at night in the dark forests of Smaland

🙂

Tobias B
Guest
Tobias B
5 years 7 months ago

+1
it’s quite dark her in småland, i love night panel!

belfast_saab
Guest
belfast_saab
5 years 7 months ago
I think the problem is that over the GM years, Saab had become increasingly removed from the innovations of the aeronautical link, but ironically over that same period GM cynically increasd teh emphasis. This left the marketing people struggling to pinpoint the aeronautical features and focussing on just one, the night panel. I don’t use, I do like to see everything, it doesn’t tire my eyes or distract me because the green illumination is subtle and the dashboard well designed. My 2006 9-3 SID did distract me, and that was the only possible reason for night panel. I now drive… Read more »
turbokalle
Guest
turbokalle
5 years 7 months ago

They are just trying to be dramatic.
Only people driving Toyotas, Skodas and such does not know if the tank is full or empty when they start driving. They barely know what car brand they have.
We, we just know because when we drive our Saabs the journey is as important as getting there. 🙂

Oscm
Guest
Oscm
5 years 7 months ago

Excuse me? 🙂
I am very aware of the fact that I’m now driving a Skoda (because of the lack of a small Saab). Of all the things I miss from my 9-5, Night Panel is definitely one of them.

Though it always disturbed me that some panels didn’t shut off in Nigh Panel-mode, I really wish that my Skoda Fabia had this feature.

Wulf
Guest
Wulf
5 years 7 months ago

TTAC and Clarkson. They usually go for the dramatic effects to attract an audience. They are only a source of entertainment and not a knowledgeable resource for me.

I use Night Panel all the time. I don’t really understand the issue here. The system alerts you when fuel is getting low. Isn’t that the point of NP and only show important information when necessary?

Johan
Guest
Johan
5 years 7 months ago

I use the nightpanel every time I drive in the night. I feel that it make me gain more control over my car and lower the level of blindness while meeting other cars.

But I need to be honest, I have been driving saab for 8 years and i just recently found my new love for this function.

Brett
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Brett
5 years 7 months ago

I use it a lot! Especially when it’s raining. I turn on night panel and dim the dash lights all the way down. It’s amazing how much better you can see out of the car without bright green grabbing your attention.

Quijote
Guest
Quijote
5 years 7 months ago

I never use the night panel button, mainly because while your interior may suddenly be dark, its effect is overpowered by the city’s lights! However, I love using it during road trips with the top down because there are no lights in rural driving and the “night panel” works well in those conditions.

zippy
Guest
zippy
5 years 7 months ago

Its a novelty for me and I never use it coz I like all those green lights shining at me.

Luke D. Lewis
Guest
Luke D. Lewis
5 years 7 months ago

I use my night panel religiously in Both of my 9-3’s. Originally, I used it in my OG 9-3 to help save on the pixel life of my SID (whether it does or not is beyond me – but psycologically it does – LOL).

I got used to using it and prefer driving with Night Panel in my SS as well.

MarkoA
Guest
MarkoA
5 years 7 months ago
I use Nightpanel a lot. Never had any problems like those described. Neither my wife ever expressed such worries. Don´t know if she is using it while driving alone, though. It´s definitely one of Those Features I love about Saab. I drive a lot during out dark winter time and I have found it very relaxing for eyes during longer trip. I cannot imagine having any problems with it. Btw, have you noticed that if you redline the revs, the gauge will be lit! That is awesome. I have to laugh at those comments where driver feels frightened of fuel-light!… Read more »
74stingray
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74stingray
5 years 7 months ago

I use Nightpanel about 50% of the time… all depends on the driving environment. It certainly does NOT scare me.

Tompa
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Tompa
5 years 7 months ago

The Black Panel is a superb thing. It takes away glare and distraction. When ever I want to have a look at something like fuel, I just hit the Black Panel button and have a looksee. What´s hard about that?

Cheers/Tom

Troels, Denmark
Guest
5 years 7 months ago
I think BlackPanel is a nice feature – especially from an aesthetic point of view. The car-interior looks much calmer and cleaner. Another thing is that I must admit that I often turn it off again rather fast, because my restless temper makes me want to check the driving-computer: dte or outside temperature f.ex. I also disagree in the “Born from Jets” – slogan being ridiculous – I think it shows the heritage off the original thinking brand. Ability to appreciate (not to mention practising) original thinking would be a high demand to the two authors. It´s always easier to… Read more »
Victor
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Victor
5 years 7 months ago

No need to be afraid of the petrol, when my lights up, i can still drive 100km +-.. And also, before you press it, you see how much you still got, so you get a little “humm” about it.. no use to panic.

Andreas
Guest
Andreas
5 years 7 months ago

Use it quite often now in dark winter sweden and love it. It really helps the sight, and anyone who is driving without looking at the fuel gauge when they start a longer trip and don’t realise it could be an idea keep the fuel in mind in this situations deserve to run out fuel. Besides when it reaches critical you have 70-100km to find a gas station which at least in Sweden is sufficient (maybe except some really remote parts).

TTAero
Guest
TTAero
5 years 7 months ago

Afraid? Nope!
Is it a god thing? Yepp!
Do I use it a lot? H-ll yes!

For those weak guys I recomend stop using anything that consumes anything that might get empty.

If the button isn’t theire cup of thee, stop using it. It’s a volontary thing you know.

Rico Caleuche
Guest
Rico Caleuche
5 years 7 months ago

The nicght panel is a funny item witch I tried a few times, but I never use it wihile driving. I prefere to have all informations to see “what is happening” with the car. The full display is important for me on short and long trips as well on normal roads and as well on the Autobahn.

Quickening
Guest
Quickening
5 years 7 months ago

Noobs.

Seriously, there is no scare factor at all. I use it all the time. And not once have I had the fuel gauge light back up saying low fuel or something. I guess I keep my car tanked up most of the time. But seriously, its a not issue.

Jos
Guest
Jos
5 years 7 months ago

Guys that panic over running out of gas should net be allowed to drive, let alone be motoring journos. Idiots!

Jeff
Guest
Jeff
5 years 7 months ago

The first time you use it and don’t read the instructions, yes you feel like an idiot when you think you’re out of gas. The first time you use it at night on a long trip and appreciate its beauty and simplicity, you feel like a genius for buying a Saab. I use it all the time now.

Specht
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Specht
5 years 7 months ago

As I always have in mind what fuel level my tank contains (as every pilot should…), I can’t be surprised in BlackPanel mode. The only thing is… why a so huge button !

laurent
Guest
laurent
5 years 7 months ago

Its nice that you can shutdown the screen of your Nav while still listening to music at night, the screen is at times too bright and distracts you from the road.

racersaaben
Guest
racersaaben
5 years 7 months ago

I use the night panel all the time. I think it’s one of the best inventions there is for driving safely at night, and I’m surprised it hasn’t been picked up by any other manufacturer.

(db)
Guest
5 years 7 months ago

Once test-drove a Hyundai i30 and it had night panel. So I can imagine more cars have it.

And although I mostly drive at night, I don’t use it that much actually in my Saab: I want to have full control.

RS
Guest
RS
5 years 7 months ago

The minute I leave the city I push the button when it’s dark. It’s priceless if you have longer drive home. It turns on the fuel light if you’re running low so you actually notice it even better. In fact its so important I won’t buy a car without Night Panel. Not that many brands to choose from in the end 😉

ousaab
Guest
ousaab
5 years 7 months ago

i think these guys are over reacting…as we can all agree. BUT the first few times i used the feature my heart would race a bit faster when something popped up. once you realize that the car isn’t going to explode from a new light popping up then things calm down. i love using it on long trips and hope it’s a feature saab continues on future models.

Jason Petho
Guest
Jason Petho
5 years 7 months ago
I rather enjoy long distance driving and when I do, I prefer to drive at night. Driving to see the folks is a 14-hour drive (in the summer), which I typically do in one sitting. Driving at night offers highways with less traffic but then there is a higher risk of wildlife on the road; bear, moose, deer, etc. That being the case, in every car I have owned I have turned off the dash lights completely, as they are typically irrelevent. Without the dashlights on, I can clearly see what is outside my windscreen, allowing me to look for… Read more »
Amaranthen
Guest
Amaranthen
5 years 7 months ago
If you’re scared of a gauge getting lit when it hits a critical level, than it’s good for you. It is getting your attention, which is the main point of a gauge, alarm or warning light. I am always using the night panel when driving long distance in the dark, and it really helps vision when driving in rain, snowfall or with a lot of meeting traffic. And, when something happens in the engine control room, you will know it instantly, as your hart jump a little bit when a gauge/signal is lit in a rather dark room, almost the… Read more »
Cardoso
Guest
Cardoso
5 years 7 months ago

I agree with all of you. Night panel is a marvellous device. Driving at night is more comfortable for me… and for the passengers, too. In my other car my wife was sleeping five minutes after our departure… and now it takes her merely a few seconds…

Janne
Guest
Janne
5 years 7 months ago

Nope. There should be no need to panic. It’s a simple function and I use it when driving in the dark.

Pekko
Guest
Pekko
5 years 7 months ago

Excellent feature, I use it always when driving dark and when there is no street lights. You see the difference better when turning back dash lights not when activating night panel.

David C
Guest
David C
5 years 7 months ago

It’s a great feature, specially for long trips and if the car has navigation display. Any passenger
who enjoys taking a nap at night finds this very usefull 🙂

STIG
Guest
STIG
5 years 7 months ago

Any publicity is good publicity. Jeremy Clarkson’s comment is funny, and the attention even in this case is on Saab’s uniqueness, although in a slightly teasing manner; this is not not really a negative comment.

So, would it help Saab to delete all the functions an “quirks” hat makes Saab a Saab? No way. Speed ahead Saab! We love you!

E
Guest
E
5 years 7 months ago

+1

RhodyDave
Guest
RhodyDave
5 years 7 months ago

Yup! I live in the country and I use it all the time. And yes, the fuel gage lights up when it gets low. The outside Temp is supposed to light up when there’s a chance of ice, but it doesn’t. I just wish the OnStar light wasn’t so prominent and the various knobs and buttons also dimmed w/ Night Panel. I fixed my OnStar light by putting a sticky dot over it.

Martin
Guest
Martin
5 years 7 months ago

I use the night/black panel all the time. It comes as a reflex after turning the key. I’ve heard people say it’s useless, but they seem to drive non-Saabs so what do they know?

I can’t imagine people getting scared when something lightes up, should they really be driving if that scares them?

Dk
Guest
Dk
5 years 7 months ago

Nightpanel is the best button in the entire car, i love driving at night, and nightpanel makes that so much easy for the eyes!

Borge
Guest
Borge
5 years 7 months ago
I love the night panel when driving on dark roads in the mountain. When driving in poor conditions you need all the visibility you can get, it doesn’t take allot of light to screw up your night vision for a good 30 minutes. Not even once have I been worried about the fuel gauge. Let’s face it, when the gauge lights up, you still have about 60km left in the tank (at least in my 2.0 petrol), so reaching a petrol station should be possible. And if your in stupidly remote place, you should be aware of what you have… Read more »
Adam
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Adam
5 years 7 months ago

I don’t really understand the issue, in the OG9-5 the fuel gauge lights up when you have 15l of fuel left (which even in my 2.0t Auto estate will mean 80 miles or 126km of travel) and in the 9-3 the gauge will light up at 12l of fuel left (which given the better fuel efficiencies will mean about the same amount of range left).

If you live somewhere in the wilderness without frequent places to buy fuel you should already know how much fuel you have left before you start your journey and night panel would make no difference?

Rune
Guest
Rune
5 years 7 months ago
Exactly. If you do not look at the fuel gauge to begin with, NP is not going to make much difference. But Saab’s very early warning will help you save the day nonetheless. Besides, all three of the Saabs I have driven are able to run just fine on fumes long after DTE drops below 0. My 9000 once had a DTE value that increased from 0 to 1 km after 5 km or so… But I was in no mood to stop, so I continued for another 40-50 km before stopping for gasoline. (I managed to fill more than… Read more »
David Z
Guest
5 years 7 months ago

“(I managed to fill more than the limit of my tank at that point)”

Well done good sir, well done! =D

maanders
Guest
maanders
5 years 7 months ago
Yes, I use night panel and yes I think they were overly dramatizing this “scare” factor. It is time (again) to get the word out that these unique Saab features (night panel, key in center console,etc.) are not just there to be different or a gimmick, they are for safety and/or ease of use. These should be played up as advantages and Saab’s independent thinking to improve the driver experience. These are features that were new to me when I first shopped for a Saab back in 2000, but the salesperson (and other Saab owners on various enthusiast sites) explained… Read more »
Edonis
Guest
Edonis
5 years 7 months ago

I really like the green and orange glow coming from the dials, so under normal driving conditions in suburbia, I leave the illumination on. However, I like to use the Night Panel when driving long distances at night at poorly lit roads. It really helps when your eyes are tired and the only thing lighting up the environment is your own xenons.

Nils
Guest
Nils
5 years 7 months ago

Same here. I have used the black panel mainly on long distances. I have never been scared of the Black panel. It is made for people driving in the dark, without loads of street lights. This feature makes a lot of sense in the Nordic countries. But it may be a bit strange to someone in the London metropolitan area…;o)

Jonasc
Guest
Jonasc
5 years 7 months ago
Anyone who fails to see the usefulness for the nightpanel either never drives in pitch black surroundings, or need a brain-turbo to produce more bhp for the brain. It is pretty straight forward and it eludes me why an informative gauge-light up would scare anyone more just because you are in night panel mode. I love it and as mentioned before it is really strange how no other car manufacturer brought it to the table. It is nice to see how the speedometer adds or subtracts speed pins all depending how close to the threshold you are. Your SAAB is… Read more »
bjorn n
Guest
bjorn n
5 years 7 months ago

I know that in general Clarkson is quite liked so I am sorry for saying this: anything he says is completely non-sensical and just said for effect. He is a clown and a bad one, but I seem to be in a minority on that one.

Btw I often use the night panel. it is really calming when it is really dark, but of course, in many places in Europe it never gets really dark so then it might be less useful.

Ralph
Guest
Ralph
5 years 7 months ago

Indeed, never mind Clarkson.

Coggs
Guest
Coggs
5 years 7 months ago

I guess I’m in the minority. I like having data in front of me and seldom use the night panel option. I really don’t find the illuminated instruments at all distracting. It also seems counter the the HUD that Saab is touting in the NG9-5. Never driven with a HUD but not sure it’s going to be my cup of tea. And I will draw the line on having a back-up camera display or a GPS that doesn’t have night colors.

Freddy
Guest
Freddy
5 years 7 months ago

I drove the NG9-5 in august for 800 km in one afternoon, and when it got dark I used the HUD in combination with the NP. It’s was absolutely wonderful! I didn’t have to take my eyes off the road at all, doing 200km/h between Gothenburg and Uddevalla. I even took an extra detour after about 700km just to enjoy the car. But ofcourse it was a fully loaded 9-5 🙂

elsch
Guest
elsch
5 years 7 months ago

At night on the Autobahn, Night-Panel is always on. The speedo-connection with the 140kph-‘limit’ makes it even easier to safe fuel… 🙂 – Driving ’round in city traffic with all the enlightened shops, windows, traffic lights, lamp posts and stuff, it doesn’t really work with a ‘dark’ cockpit… everything else is too distracting then.

James
Guest
James
5 years 7 months ago
They’re both melodramatic… TTAC in particular seems to be a bunch of people who test drive cars they don’t want to like + write negative articles pretending to be Clarkson. While he is generally at least amusingly witty (even if I don’t always agree), the TTAC crew largely are not. They’re just looking for stuff to pick at to have something to write. If they don’t want to use night panel, why push the button? I’m probably guilty of the same thing at times. Eg. lots of people love Subarus (eg all my friends), and having driven a few on… Read more »
Per
Guest
Per
5 years 7 months ago

Bad weather, at night – Rule nr.1, push the button.

David Z
Guest
5 years 7 months ago

It’s something I wish I had in my C900. At night, I turn the dimmer all the way down and cover up the bright lcd screen from my radio (no dimmer). it makes night driving through the country so much A) safer, and B) more pleasant. It feels so much simpler and more minimalist when all I can see is the forest around me, the stars, and the road.

Loma
Guest
Loma
5 years 7 months ago

Much fuzz about nothing I’m afraid .
Jack Baruth and Clarkson both just try to keep their coolness ( one with more succes than the other ).
They would NEVER make the same lame remarks about the recent BMW black panel function.
Making a car look stupid, pointing to certain details, just seems to be very entertaining for their audience (certainly when its an AMG or a Lambo).
“…an enormous button ” lol, made me smile. We know better 🙂

About the black panel : once you “dare” to use it, its just so….well , Saab. I cherish it.

Bernard
Guest
Bernard
5 years 7 months ago

I agree. Clarkson is just making a joke, and the joke is on the driver rather than the car. Nothing to see.

The other one is just a poor bit of writing, the column-inch equivalent of over-acting. Some writers think that they are more interesting if they describe buttons as “enormous” and situations as “critical,” even though they clearly aren’t. To use a Clarkson analogy, avoid sitting next to those people at dinner parties.

Thylmuc
Guest
Thylmuc
5 years 7 months ago

1. Err, RTFM?!
2. I don’t use it. Come on, I’m an information junkie
3. I found no prove that this is a concept derived from aviation

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